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The Push to Increase the Minimum Wage, Revisited


May 28, 2014 by Flannary Collins
Category: Minimum Wage

Note: Due to the 2016 voters’ passage of Initiative 1433, the state minimum wage is currently $11.00 per hour. Beginning January 1, 2018, it will rise to $11.50 per hour. In 2019, it will increase to $12.00, and finally in 2020 to $13.50 per hour.

I last blogged about this issue in February (see The $15 Minimum Wage – An Issue with Momentum), and its momentum has certainly not slowed, at least not on the state and local level. The federal minimum wage has not been raised for nearly five years and a recent push to increase the rate from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour failed to pass the U.S. Senate. With the issue stalled at the federal level, cities and states around the country are tackling this issue, and Washington State is the current frontrunner, both with the highest rate for any state in the nation ($9.32 per hour, which is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI)) and the highest rate for any city for certain workers (SeaTac at $15 per hour for non-airport transportation and hospitality employees).

A number of other states and the District of Columbia are close on Washington State’s heels, including:

  • Washington D.C.: Will surpass Washington State on July 1, 2014 when its $9.50 per hour rate kicks in (up from its current rate of $8.25 per hour); the rate increases to $10.50 per hour in 2015 and $11.50 in 2016.
  • Oregon: Rate is $9.10 per hour, and increases annually with the CPI.
  • California: Rate will increase from $8.00 to $9.00 effective July 1, 2014 and to $10.00 in 2016.

And, this year alone, five states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Minnesota, and West Virginia) have increased their minimum wage above the federal rate, with two more awaiting approval by their governors (Hawaii and Vermont). Out of the fifty states, twenty-one currently have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage.

Closer to home for many of our blog readers, the city of Seattle may in a few years have the highest rate in the nation for all workers in the city. In early May, the Income Inequality Advisory Committee formed by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray agreed upon a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour, phased in over three to seven years, depending on the size of the business and other factors:

  • Large businesses (more than 500 employees): $15 per hour by 2017 if the employees do not also receive health coverage. If employees receive health coverage, $15 per hour by 2018.
  • Small businesses (500 employees or fewer): $15 per hour by 2019 if the employees do not receive tips or health coverage. Otherwise, small businesses have until 2021 to pay the $15 per hour rate.

Throughout the months of May and June, the Seattle City Council's Select Committee on the Minimum Wage and Income Inequality is holding meetings to discuss the mayor’s plan.  In addition, two initiatives (pre-signature gathering) have been filed with the city by 15 Now, a group backed by Seattle councilmember Kshama Sawant seeking to include a different $15 minimum wage proposal on the November 2014 ballot (defining a small business to be 250 employees or less or one that has less than $15,000,000 in gross revenues per year, excluding the consideration of tips, and requiring large businesses to pay $15/hour by January 1, 2015 and small businesses by January 1, 2018).

Seattle is not the only city exploring a minimum wage increase.  The council president of the City of San Diego is proposing a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $13.09 per hour, while an initiative has been filed by a labor union with the City of San Francisco for the November 2014 ballot to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The arguments on either side of the debate on whether to increase the minimum wage include:

Which of these predictions will come true remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear - in the near future, any increases to the minimum wage (and any resulting consequences) will be the work of the individual states and cities and not the federal government.


MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Flannary Collins

Flannary Collins is the Managing Attorney for MRSC. She first joined the organization as a legal consultant in August 2013 after working for ten years as the assistant city attorney for the city of Shoreline. At MRSC, Flannary enjoys providing legal guidance to municipalities through inquiry assistance and in-person trainings on municipal issues, with a heavy emphasis on the Public Records Act.

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